Sometimes the writing life and real life interleave so fluidly that I get the overwhelming sense that I’m doing the right thing. It’s a little scary when that happens, mostly because I’m so used to feeling like a hack all the time. Over the summer I had one of those moments when a series of events occurred and I could see the connection between them. They became an entirely different story in my head, and the poem I’m posting is the result of that experience. I toyed with the idea of submitting it for publication because it’s the best piece of poetry I’ve written, but I decided it was too special to me to put it through the rejection cycle. So I give it to you, bloggies, as a gift because I haven’t posted much writing yet. (Spoiler Alert: I have been doing a lot of writing, but I’m trying to submit more so I’m keeping it mostly to myself.) Without further babbling, here is Old Woman in a Cuban Bakery.
Hearts, and Puppies,
Going to try something new for a few weeks and see how it goes. I’m going to try to post something about writing every Wednesday. It might be links to good advice or exercises, stuff I learned at writer camp, or something else entirely, but always related to writing.
This week I’m going to talk about background music. Some writers are purists. They need to be one hundred percent immersed in their writing world in order for the ink to flow. That’s fine. If you’re one of those folks, more power to you in your cone of silence. Me, I need some music.
Generally I find it best to not use music with words because I tend to sing along, and if I’m singing I can’t write. That limits my choices pretty severely. Aside from the usual classical masters, I’ve found that movie soundtracks work very well for me because they generally last as long as one sitting of writing for me. I’m going to list a few of my favorites and why I love them so much for writing.
If you’ve never watched this movie, you should go out and get a copy right now. I’m not kidding. You can read my review of it here. This isn’t about the movie though, this is about the soundtrack. The music is unique and lovely. There are instruments you don’t hear much anymore, and even an old Victrola playing in the background at one point. Just a great soundtrack that I listen to often, and not just when I’m writing.
Basil Poledouris was the man. He did quite a few awesome soundtracks in his day, and I’d recommend any of them really, but the Original Conan is my favorite. The music is heavy with drums and horns, and just has a powerful, aggressive feeling to it. I love to write fight scenes while listening to this one.
Another great and underrated movie that you should see if you haven’t yet! The soundtrack is very nautical and gives off a great pirate vibe. There are quite a few songs that have words (sea shanties in particular) but they don’t hurt my writing experience much.
This one has melodies that will haunt you. I write faster, more emotional scenes when it’s on.
I had a hard time choosing a fifth soundtrack for inclusion here because there are so many that I love. (I may in fact end up doing a follow-up post with another five selections.) I ended up choosing Firefly because it is the one most dissimilar to the others. A little more western flair and upbeat than my other selections.
That’s all for this episode. I hope I’ve introduced you to some ear candy you didn’t know about. If you’ve got something you love to listen to while writing, please share! I’m always on the hunt for new music to write by.
Hearts and puppies,
Be Ye Warned, There are Spoilers Ahead
Most of you know that I’m a rabid consumer of television. Like a lot of kids my age, I was mostly raised by TV. I don’t say that as a bad thing, just a truth. I don’t watch as much as the “average American” whoever that represents, but I watch quite a bit. In particular I always give fantasy and science fiction shows a chance, in solidarity for my genre of choice.
I was pretty excited when I saw the previews for Intelligence start a couple of months ago. I find current-tech and near-future SciFi particularly exciting because I feel like it’s where science news and entertainment collide. I was pretty happy that Sawyer from Lost would be in something else again, and very excited that it looked like the main female character would get to have the protector role for a change. It seemed like a fun show all around.
I still think the base idea is a good one, but I have a HUGE problem with the execution of this show so far. There is a not a single person of color in the main cast. NOT. ONE. I had hopes Gabriel’s wife might become a recurring character (she was played by the amazing Zuleikha Robinson who I may or may not have crowed about on here already) but it appears now that won’t happen. Most likely because they are making room for a romantic subplot–UGH. In fact, it’s worse than that. Every single non-white character with lines so far has been a bad guy. Even the Chinese diplomat who helps them out comes off as shady.
Really, is this where we are now? I’m deeply disappointed. I know no one does these things on purpose. I’m not trying to lay blame, or claim they are overtly racist. Just put a TINY bit of thought of into your casting. That’s all I ask. Listen, I’m super pleased Intelligence has a woman kicking ass and a woman in charge, really I am. But we can do so much better. We HAVE to do better.
What got me ticked off enough today to write a ranty blog post about this was a few clips from a very cool documentary on black voices in Science Fiction from the 90s. If you don’t want to watch all three videos (though I highly recommend all of them, especially the one with Nichelle Nichols) here’s the salient point queued up for you: Mike Sargeant on black characters in science fiction. As a society, we need solid, meaty non-white characters. It’s important for all of us because diversity exists, and it needs to be celebrated.
I’m making it a personal goal of mine to have at least half of all characters in my stories from this point on be non-white. I’m going to try for not only racial diversity, but ethnic diversity as well. That takes a little more effort, and a little more research, but I think the process and results will be worthwhile.
Rants and ranties,
First, and foremost, applications for Viable Paradise 2014 are open! Deadline is June 15th. If you’re a science fiction or fantasy writer, you should apply. There are few better ways to spend a week of your time. You will learn so much (I’m still learning things months later) and you will meet a fantastic bunch of folks. Immersing yourself in writing for a week is an amazing experience and I honestly can’t recommend this workshop highly enough. If you’ve convinced yourself that you aren’t good enough yet, like I almost did last year, apply anyway. Let the staff make that determination for you.
Secondly, women writers: Lightspeed Magazine is doing a special Women Destroy Science Fiction issue where all of the stories and articles will be written and edited by women. Submissions are open now, and will be until February 14th. Stories have to be Science Fiction, but the editor encourages a pretty broad (bwhaha) interpretation of science fiction. There is also a kickstarter for those who would rather support than submit.
Phew, now that my slinging is out of the way, down to business. I am a horrible blogger. You probably know this already, but it’s go to drive the point home whenever possible. I wouldn’t want you to have an unrealistic expectations. I blog when something strikes my fancy, or when I remember. I’m going to try to get back into doing my science posts because I think they’re fun and I like to share awesome science stories with you.
As far as my work goes, I have three short stories out on submission right now. Two are science fiction and one is contemporary romance. I have another couple of stories done but awaiting editing, and three more in the not-quite-done stage. I go through very creative spots and very blank spots. On the creative days I’m pretty sure I’m a REAL WRITER. On the other days, I’m not so sure. What I really have to do is establish a slot of time where all I do is write, every day. That worked well for me at the end of last year but I let it slide.
Right now I’m working on my submission to help Destroy Sci Fi for Lightspeed, and then I’m going to start on my novel edits. The first draft of Summoner’s Circle is done and has been for a while. I have some pretty big plans for the second draft, including a big change to one of the more important characters. I want to get those edits done and start my agent hunt by June. *fingers crossed*
Finally, I’ll be going to Boskone this year. It’s my first convention and I’m pretty excited. If you’re planning to go drop me a line and we’ll say hello or have a coffee!
That’s all I’ve got. Hearts, puppies, and all that jazz,
The lovely Seanan McGuire made several tweets today about something I honestly had never even considered as a problem, but has been twisting my brain around all day since she mentioned it. Basically, her point was that as women we are our own worst enemies, not through any fault of our own, but because of the way our culture raises us. She specifically mentioned something called “Smurfette Syndrome,” the idea that if you’re the only woman in a group, you are automatically the most beautiful and desirable, that really got the old gray matter churning.
If I think back on most of the cartoons and movies of my childhood aimed at girls, there is a recurring of jealousy to many, if not all of the female dominated story lines. Snow White is hunted by her wicked stepmother who wants to be the “fairest of them all,” and can only achieve that goal by killing Snow. Cinderella’s step sisters can’t stand her because she’s so pretty and they’re so plain. There is not a single male-led story I can think of that uses so plainly vain a motivation as a plot device. Boys are out for adventure or treasure, it doesn’t matter what they look like, but for girls the MAIN PLOT has to do with their level of attractiveness and how they are either lauded or maligned for how they look. Antagonists of girl shows and movies are almost always other women who dislike the main character because she’s beautiful.
Holy shit. That’s crazy, right? I mean bat-shit bonkers. We’re being taught we can’t trust each other and it’s so nefarious that I never even noticed it.
Back to “Smurfette Syndrome” for a moment. Why is it that the heroine so rarely has female friends she can depend on? If she does have a bestie who is a woman who she can rely on, it’s almost always someone who is geeky or frumpy—Velma, Willow (in the early Buffy years), etc. Seriously, every “attractive” woman who isn’t the main character in girl-led shows almost immediately hates the main character, usually because she’s afraid the protagonist is after her boyfriend. It’s an instinctive reaction and we all buy into it. The more I think about it, the more I’m weirded out by why this is at all okay.
I’ve never understood slut shaming, or how women can be so cruel to each other for no real reason, but now I have an inkling. I make a solemn pledge, here before the interwebs, that I will call this behavior out when I see it, and that I will not allow women to treat each other like crap on the basis of appearance or what they’re wearing. Slut shaming or calling other women names based on superficial bullshit will be an automatic unfollow on my social media feeds.
Smurfette, you’re fired as a female role model.
Rants and ranties,
PS – I apologize if this post sounds a bit too “conspiracy theory” for some. I know I’m treading close to that line, but I welcome discussion about shows or books that buck this trope and how crazy I sound. Please, change my mind.